People Feature: The Silver Lining in Performance Reviews: Career Development
Article published on November 30, 2015
By Clare Trapasso
By Clare Trapasso
Annual performance reviews may be unpopular with many employees, but the development plans that typically accompany them can pave the way to gain the skills and experiences workers need to get ahead.
Firms such as State Street, Prudential Financial and Securian Financial Group encourage employees to consider stretch assignments with other departments and lateral moves to introduce them to different parts of the company. The firms also offer online and in-person training to help prepare workers for the next rung on the corporate ladder.
“Getting new experiences is really important in developing people’s careers,” says Alison Quirk, chief human resources and citizenship officer at State Street. “It could be continuing to do your job, but working on a project that will get you exposure to either another part of the business or a product or process you don’t have familiarity with.”
The onus is on employees to manage his or her own career and articulate goals to their supervisors during the performance review process, she says.
“Don’t let a manager assume they know what your career aspirations are,” Quirk says.
State Street’s more than 30,000 employees undergo performance reviews in December and then set goals and development plans the following month.
Employees at the Boston-based firm can apply for short-term assignments in different departments or offices around the globe to learn new skills, she says.
State Street also launched a professional development program this year for mid-level employees, where 36 workers rotate through four different assignments in various divisions and locations within the firm over a two-year span to fast-track their development. The firm hopes to expand the program to about 50 participants. A similar opportunity is offered to new recruits.
“Building careers means you really need to learn about what’s going on in different departments … [to] be able to progress,” Quirk says.
Staffers should be able to pinpoint their dream jobs within their companies and know the skills required to move into those positions, says Alexandra Levit, author of Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can’t Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success. They can then pitch projects to their managers through which they could attain those skill sets.
“Even if you want to stay in your current job for the next 30 years, you need to be upping your game,” says Levit, who is also president of the Chicago-based workplace consultancy Inspiration at Work.
Like State Street, Prudential Financial encourages employees to figure out where they want to go professionally and candidly share those aspirations with their managers.
This helps managers identify opportunities for them, such as interdepartmental "stretch" assignments, jobs shadowing colleagues in different departments or finding new mentors, says Julie Stone, VP of learning and leadership development.
“We’re looking for a development plan that’s not just going to meet the company’s needs, but meet their own professional and personal needs,” she says.
The Newark, N.J.-based insurer starts its annual review process in February for its roughly 48,000 staffers, and development plans are encouraged, says Stone.
During performance reviews, professionals should discuss the development and training they want from the company to improve, says Jen Shirkani, founder and CEO of the Bedford, N.H.-based leadership development consultancy the Penumbra Group.
Workers interested in moving into other parts of the business should research the role they want by looking at the job description on hiring websites and talking to people in those positions.
They should also be on the lookout for educational opportunities. “If your company offers free workshops internally, take them,” she says. “It only adds to your value.”
Most employees are keen on professional development, says Victor Lipman, author of The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World.
“It leads to a lot of dissatisfaction, and ultimately retention problems, when employees don’t get the career support that they want,” says Lipman, a MassMutual alum who worked in corporate communications at the company.
State Street offers chapters of Toastmasters to help workers with their public speaking, as well on-site chartered financial analyst designation preparatory courses. It also maintains an internal website stocked with tutorials, online courses and videos on topics ranging from project management to beginner Microsoft Excel skills.
In addition, managers can send workers to certificate programs or to local colleges if their budgets allow.
Securian has an internal website for employees who want to learn more about particular business areas and skills that includes workshops, lists of books to read and links to training videos, says Mary Streed, head of human resources. The St. Paul, Minn.-based firm also offers about 100 in-person or online courses, with topics like how to cultivate talented teams.
The financial services company holds its performance reviews, which often include development plans, during the first quarter of each year. It has more than 4,000 employees.
“[A performance appraisal is] a wonderful opportunity to assess where you’ve been and position yourself for where you want to go,” Streed says.
As a general assignment reporter on the Daily News’ Queens Bureau and Metro Desk, she covers everything from schools being closed, to naked bike rides, to grisly murders, local politics and everything in-between.
Prior to that, she was an Associated Press reporter in the wire service’s New Hampshire Bureau. During the six-month assignment, she covered state and national news and put together several multimedia projects. She also edited stories and wrote broadcast news.
She became passionate about journalism at the State University of New York at Purchase College, where she graduated with a B.A. in journalism in 2002. In her senior year, she created a campus women's newspaper called The Cycle.
After receiving her undergraduate degree, she joined the Peace Corps. She was sent to Independent Samoa in the South Pacific, where she learned Samoan and taught college-level journalism classes in the capitol.
When she returned to America, she began graduate school. In 2007, she earned a M.A. in Journalism from New York University. As a student, she interned for the Daily News and The Village Voice. After graduation, she did an internship in the Associated Press New York City Bureau.
Clare Trapasso is interested in writing stories that can effect change. She can be contacted at email@example.com.